Friday, February 20, 2009

Women, Performance and the Emotion Roadmap™

Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership Reviewed


Women, Performance and the Emotion Roadmap™ Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership By Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli with review and Commentary by C. Wolfe Harvard Business Review September 2007 First, the news is not good. Despite significant progress into the role of management women make up only 6% of the highest paid executive positions of Fortune 500 companies. In 1986 the Wall Street Journal reported that women inevitably would hit an invisible ceiling no matter how talented. “Consider comments made by President Richard Nixon, recorded on White House audiotapes… explaining why he would not appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, Nixon said ‘I don’t think a woman should be in any government job whatsoever…mainly because they are erratic. And emotional. Men are emotional too, but the point is a woman is more likely to be.’ In a culture where such opinions were widely held, women had virtually no chance of attaining influential leadership roles.” (P. 64). While the authors recognize that times have changed, they feel the focus on the glass ceiling is highly misleading. First, while the numbers are small, there actually have been a number of top women executives and leaders who have risen to the top echelon of leadership positions. Second, the authors do not dispute the fact that a glass ceiling exists; instead what they have found is that women face obstacles throughout their careers and not just at the top. Therefore, the use of the metaphor of a labyrinth seems more fitting instead of a ceiling, meaning that women face walls everywhere in their journey to lead others. The authors cite a variety of studies that indicate that women face barriers all the way up and not just at the greater heights. The authors cover the information that many of us know and understand, e.g., women are seen as more compassionate while men are more assertive. “Study after study has affirmed that people associate women and men with different traits and link men with more of the traits that connote leadership. Kim Campbell, who briefly served as prime minister of Canada in 1993, described the tension that results: ‘I don’t have a traditionally female way of speaking…I’m quite assertive. If I didn’t speak the way I do, I wouldn’t have been seen as a leader. But my way of speaking may have grated on people who were not used to hearing it from a woman. It was the right way for a leader to speak, but it wasn’t the right way for a woman to speak. It goes against type.’ ” (P. 66) The authors correctly point out that if the issue is not the glass ceiling by itself, then we need to look at intervention strategies that impact women throughout their careers. I agree. People who read their article will be informed about excellent strategies for helping women to rise at each stage of their careers. However, many of these strategies have been thought of, discussed, and tried before without success. And while the idea of removing prejudice, making performance reviews less subjective, and so forth are all good ideas, they are not new, and I believe they have not been more successful is because they do not confront the underlying emotional issues. AND this is my major reason for reviewing this article. Even if we do everything they say I doubt much will change because we are not facing a rational situation. The reason women are not in higher levels is because some men and women do not want them there. And those that do are not necessarily passionate about creating the necessary changes. If we really want to see a change in the opportunities for leaders to emerge equally from both sexes, I believe we have to address the issue from an emotional perspective. The Emotion Roadmap offers us a vantage point to see how we may get real change to occur. The roadmap asks us to consider who are the key people involved and how do they feel? In other words, what really is happening? 1. How are men feeling? And how are women feeling about the lack of opportunity for women (identify emotions)? 2. What would be ideal regarding how men and women feel in order to create the real change necessary for women to truly have equal opportunities for leadership (use emotions)? 3. What is causing the current feelings and what might we do to change them to the more ideal feelings (understand emotions)? 4. What are men and women willing to do to create the changes necessary (manage emotions)? Identify what is really being felt by Men and Women How do people really feel about having woman leaders? I think that while some men and women would welcome improved opportunities for women to lead, there are also a number of men and women that are uncomfortable having women as leaders. There are all kinds of possibilities about why this might be true. Without delving into the psychology of why, the roadmap moves us next to ask what would be ideal. Use emotions to generate the environment which will facilitate promoting women to senior leadership. To do so, we need to ask what emotions would be ideal. For change to occur I believe we want those men and women who do wish to have equal opportunities for women to become passionate about creating change. Change needs to take place at every level, beginning with policy changes at federal and state government, all the way through to standard operating practices that do not allow for discrimination. For those from both sexes who would rather not work for women, I believe we need them to move to neutral so they no longer present an obstacle to those women who aspire to lead. Understanding emotions is the next step in the roadmap where we strategize how to move people from what they are feeling to what is more ideal based on what we wish to accomplish. On such a large scale it is difficult to understand how to move all the people in power who have the ability to shift policy or operating procedures in organizations. What we can say is that there are not many, men or women, who appear to be passionate about changing the situation. For example, while it is intriguing that Harvard Business Review ran this article as its lead, I wonder how many men will actually read it. That is not to say that these men are not interested in women having more opportunity, I simply suspect it is not a top priority. Even for those women and men who do read it, I think the chances are small that many will take action to implement the changes. So how then do we move people beyond mild interest in the subject? To accomplish any meaningful change I view as similar to finding the one place in a diamond that you can make the cut you need to split it the way you want. Rational arguments won’t do it in this case. This issue, in order to change, needs to be very personal. In this situation, to move people to feel passion, I believe we need to shift the focus away from the present to what the future holds for our daughters, nieces and all our female loved ones who already are, or soon will be entering the workforce. When I think about what I want for my wife, three daughters and three nieces, I can tell you with conviction that I want them to have every advantage given to any man. When I think about it from a more general perspective, while I am interested, it is not a top priority. Make it personal by focusing on loved ones and you will see real change. Let each of us who believes in this become the pioneers that blaze the trail that leads to true equality of opportunity! Managing emotions is the final step in the roadmap where we consider what are we willing to do, and able to do, to create the feelings we want. In my role as an executive coach I have exerted influence in organizations to create more fairness. I have also counseled my wife, daughters and occasionally my nieces on how to rise in organizations. I am making an effort to make a meaningful difference for women, especially those closest to me. I hope in choosing to write about this article in this way, that somehow others will make this issue more personal as well, and do what they can to assure fairness in the workplace for all. What are each of you willing and able to do to make the world an easier and more just world for all females and particularly those that are closest to you? I would appreciate any responses you may wish to share regarding my views and also encourage you to read the article by Professors Eagly and Carli. Emotional Intelligence Main Site Feel free to email me Send Mail and visit my website here. Charles J. Wolfe at 5:49 PM Labels: emotional intelligence work, emotional intelligence working, emotional intelligence workplace, emotional intelligence workshop, intelligence training, teaching emotional intelligence

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1 Comments:

At April 3, 2009 at 8:02 AM , Blogger Becky said...

Excellent article! As a female in a male-dominated field, I am well aware of this "labyrinth of leadership" and agree it is a more accurate description than the older "glass ceiling" metaphor. The Harvard Business Review had a fascinating article in the January 2009 issue entitled "Women and the Vision Thing." I definitely recommend reading it if this is a topic of interest.

One thing I can see clearly, working at my current company, is that most of the uncomfortableness of a strong, driven woman comes from the older generation of male workers, i.e. those who have been in the industry for 15 - 20 years. Fortunately, it seems that more of my male and female peers are at a point where they are comfortable with a female leader. That being said, most of the women who do lead in my field are very tough, and I still hear, from men and women both, negative statements about their toughness or what is seen as a lack of femininity. Until we change our stereotypes of how each gender should behave, there will continue to be negative reactions toward women who do move up the ladder.

 

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